Carole Baskin tells MovieMaker she has no plans to sue over accusations by Joe Exotic, Jeff Lowe and others in the Tiger King docuseries that she murdered her ex-husband, Don Lewis.
“Right now I’ve got too much to worry about w/ COVID-19 threatening the economy and thus our cats,” she said in an email, soon after Netflix aired a brand-new interview show, The Tiger King and I, hosted by Joel McHale.
Joe Exotic, aka Joseph Passage Maldonado and Joe Schreibvogel, says repeatedly in Tiger King that he believes Baskin killed Lewis, who disappeared in August 1997.
Also Read: Joe Exotic Used to Be a Cop
In The Tiger King and I, the murder accusations continue. McHale at one point asks the new owner of Exotic’s menagerie, Jeff Lowe, and his wife Lauren Lowe, if they believe Carol Baskin killed Don Lewis.
“Abso-fucking-lutely,” says Lauren Lowe.
“There’s no question in my mind that she did it,” adds Jeff Lowe. “And we’ve claimed that for years and years and years.”
It’s a serious moment in a jokey interview: McHale’s next question is, “What’s more disturbing: The fact that she may have killed her ex-husband or her wedding photos with Howard,” referring to Baskin’s current husband.
Under state law in Florida, where Baskin lives, and where her organization, Big Cat Rescue, is based, she has two years to bring a libel or slander lawsuit. Accusing someone of a crime they didn’t commit could constitute libel or slander.
Baskin did not respond to a follow-up email from MovieMaker about whether she might pursue legal action in the future.
Journalists and documentary filmmakers routinely struggle with the balance between their First Amendment right to report the news and the potential legal risk of airing damaging accusations about the subjects of their reports.
Baskin has repeatedly said she doesn’t know how Lewis disappeared, and denied any wrongdoing. She has also urged people to consider the source when it comes to the murder accusations.
She notes that her main accuser, Joe Exotic, is in prison, convicted on multiple charges, including attempting to orchestrate her own murder. Exotic has denied it, and believes he was framed by Lowe.
McHale asks Jeff Lowe in The Tiger King and I: “How do you respond to people who say that Joe was set up?”
“It’s a complete crock of shit,” Jeff Lowe responds. “You guys saw all the videos that Joe was posting. Joe was his own worst enemy.”
He was referring to videos in which Joe exotic jokes about killing Baskin, wishes she would die, or simulates her murder on-camera.
“Joe didn’t get set up,” Lowe added.
Baskin also sent MovieMaker a lengthy form email giving her side of the Tiger King story. In it, she argues that Tiger King could have the positive effect of raising awareness about the exploitation of big cats.
It begins with a video called Carole Baskin vs. Tiger King…
… and continues with a written message, shared here in its entirety:
“What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” has been my mantra for my whole life, so please don’t worry about me. I think there could be much good to come from the Netflix docuseries because it is the kind of thing people love to see. There is a fascination with crazy people doing crazy things and many people love to see someone like me criticized for challenging the status quo.
That means people will watch and share the show. Based on it being in Netflix’ top 10 line up, during a time when people around the world are confined to their homes looking for entertainment, I suspect it could easily reach 20 million people or more. There was no amount of preaching to the choir that I could do to reach people of all walks of life with the message that cub handling is causing the extinction of the tiger and other big cats.
The hard part for me and my tribe, which of course includes you, is that there are people who really hate having someone tell them it’s not OK for them to gawk at cute baby wildcats who were born in captivity. Most of the death threats and really crude, violent comments I am seeing right now are from that segment of society.
There is just a ton of hate mail from people who saw the clip of the Wildcat Walkabout and think we have 600 people at the sanctuary every day just like a zoo. They hate that we are keeping cats in cages and letting people visit. That requires a lot of conversations between all of us to let them know that we absolutely agree that big cats shouldn’t be in cages and why we can’t just go turn them loose.
My greatest source of gratification, from this outlandish depiction of me and the sanctuary, is seeing there already is a change in attitudes for most people. They believe wild cats should live free. All we have to do is harness and educate this significant segment of society in order to end cub handling and phase out private possession, by motivating them to make the Call of the Wild at BigCatAct.com.
In case you need these links to help people understand that Netflix grossly misrepresented us and our mission, I’ll include them here.
A concise summary: https://bigcatrescue.org/refuting-netflix-tiger-king/
All of the case numbers, dockets, links: https://bigcatrescue.org/netflix/
Slate did a great article about how Netflix chose the wrong villain: https://slate.com/culture/2020/03/tiger-king-netflix-carole-baskin-villain.html
I think the most compelling thing is to send people to CubTruth.com where they can see the three most potent videos to educate them about why they should make the call to Congress. Thank you for all you are doing to protect big cats, their cubs and their right to live free.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
Tiger King and The Tiger King and I are now streaming on Netflix.